Surviving the most technologically advanced trade show solely on USB-C was a nightmare

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 22
We tried to take on the Consumer Electronics Show with nothing but USB-C, and the effort just highlighted how far the new standard has to go. While it can power your gear quickly, trying to use only USB-C wasn't great -- but that doesn't have much to do with Apple.

USB-C on MacBook Pro
USB-C on MacBook Pro


When the AppleInsider team headed out to Las Vegas to tackle the monster that is CES, we did so with chargers, cables, and dongles galore. This year, we thought we'd try to rely on 100 percent USB-C for all our charging needs. With USB-PD and assorted quick charge technologies, it seemed like a solid option.

But as it turns out, it is far too early to go all-in.

Don't get us wrong -- everything now can be powered off USB-C. My MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, Nikon Z 7, Apple Watch, iPhone, and battery packs all can draw power by way of USB-C. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done.

Heading into CES all our gear was charged. We powered everything up before we hit the road, which means we didn't encounter our first issue until the end of day one. At this point, we had a camera, iPad, iPhone, battery pack, and Apple Watch desperately in need of charge to get ready for day two. The question was, how to charge multiple USB-C devices at once, and do it with only a few hours left to go before the meetings started.

And therein lies the problem. Currently, nearly all USB-C travel chargers on the market have multiple USB-A ports but only a sole USB-C port.

USB-C on MacBook
USB-C on MacBook


With so much gear to charge, we had to let our gear take turns drawing from the USB-C port. Some we powered through the multiple USB-C ports on our MacBook Pro. which isn't an ideal solution by any means.

Taking to the show floor we ran into a few issues again. Any charging stations or outlets with USB ports still only had USB-A ports available. The ubiquitous flash drives that PR mavens handed out were again, only USB-A.

When we talked to the team at Anker regarding the woes of someone looking to embrace USB-C, they jokingly suggested I pick up six of their mini chargers and use a power strip to charge everything at once. While they clearly meant it as a joke, it is the most feasible solution out there.

USB-C is going to be the future of wired connectivity. But today, and now, we are still far away from that time, even at the most tech-forward show of the year. All of these issues could easily be remedied by a USB-A cable or USB-C adapter, which is where we ended up very shortly into our CES excursion.

Satechi dual USB-C charger
Satechi dual USB-C charger


Change is on the horizon though, as technology is evolving. When we talked to a half dozen or so charging accessory manufacturers about what is holding up multi-USB-C chargers. We heard variations of "heat is an issue," "the spec is constantly changing," and "certification is difficult" across the board.

What's clear, is that manufacturers have struggled putting multiple USB-C ports in a single charger.

One of the first that appears to have cracked the puzzle is Satechi who announced a new dual USB-C PD travel charger that combines a 60W USB-C port, an 18W USB-C port, and two USB-A ports.

The Satechi 75W Dual Type-C PD Travel Charger, which is available now, is a step towards the USB-C future we are yearning for. Hopefully, throughout the year, we see more USB-C multi chargers launch, perhaps with as many as four USB-C ports on a single charger.

Until we have chargers that can do more than one or two devices at once, we can't fully embrace USB-C.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 83
    Considering USB C is now 4 years old, this is not good news. The fact that Macs are one of the very few devices still being sold with multiple usb c ports helps make this worse. I guess the best solution is to have a usb A power strip and use a handful of usb A to USB C power cables.
    baconstangsmack416elijahgagilealtitudeburnsideMplsPmuthuk_vanalingamtyler82
  • Reply 2 of 83
    I have a couple free (trade show give-aways) charging sticks. The author probably has more. Add a cheap cable if one is not included and charge the iPhone on the go. Too bd that we have to wait for Qi Charging for all the wearables and the iPhone. 
  • Reply 3 of 83
    MikeLVMikeLV Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    I stopped upgrading to newer Mac products when it went to USB-C only. Perfectly happy with my 2015 laptop and 2013 desktops.
    SpamSandwichbaconstangelijahgburnsideMplsPracerhomie3
  • Reply 4 of 83
    I’ve had my USB-C-only MBP for over two years now, and still the only things I’ve connected to it without a dongle are the power cord and the external monitor. I bet I’m not the only one who wishes they had included a USB-A port. I wonder if USB-C will become more useful to me before it’s time to get another laptop, but I did spend over $150 on dongles, so I’m well prepared to stick it out ‘til the bitter end. 
    baconstangelijahgMplsPtyler82
  • Reply 5 of 83
    M68000M68000 Posts: 110member
    Let's just hope this USB-C connector can stand the test of time - how durable it is.  A USB-A or B connector seems to be so sturdy by comparison, maybe I am imagining it, not sure..  I am very careful when using the cables and connectors on my new MacBook Air.
    MplsPneo-tech
  • Reply 6 of 83
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,979member
    Oh boy....here we go! Bring on the naysayers!
    anomeelijahgStrangeDays
  • Reply 7 of 83
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,979member
    M68000 said:
    Let's just hope this USB-C connector can stand the test of time - how durable it is.  A USB-A or B connector seems to be so sturdy by comparison, maybe I am imagining it, not sure..  I am very careful when using the cables and connectors on my new MacBook Air.
    The USB-A cable may be sturdy, but man is it a pain in the ass to plug in most the of the time. 
    kpomcaladaniancaladanianneo-techtyler82GeorgeBMacchiaStrangeDays
  • Reply 8 of 83
    kpomkpom Posts: 617member
    MikeLV said:
    I stopped upgrading to newer Mac products when it went to USB-C only. Perfectly happy with my 2015 laptop and 2013 desktops.
    An adapter or hub is a one-time purchase. I like being able to charge my MacBook with a third party charger instead of Apple’s proprietary charger. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 83
    kpomkpom Posts: 617member
    M68000 said:
    Let's just hope this USB-C connector can stand the test of time - how durable it is.  A USB-A or B connector seems to be so sturdy by comparison, maybe I am imagining it, not sure..  I am very careful when using the cables and connectors on my new MacBook Air.
    There are MagSafe like charger cables and adapters now, some of which also support data. I bought one for my iPad Pro for $26 (it is an adapter that attaches to a regular USB-C cable). It works very well. 
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 83
    bitmodbitmod Posts: 267member
    Coming soon: The completely portless MacBook Pro. 
    MacBook battery run out of charge? No problem, the Apple trade-in program will refund you 5% of your previous days MacBook. Or visit an Apple Store daily for a battery replacement for only $599.
    Ives: "The completely portless, un-chargable MacBook Pro has let us make it 1mm thinner - revolutionizing the personal computing experience..."
    Average Appleinsider commenter: "People who charge their MacBooks daily are a niche market..."

    baconstangLatkoelijahgmuthuk_vanalingamtyler82boogerman2000maciekskontakttokyojimu
  • Reply 11 of 83
    kpomkpom Posts: 617member
    bitmod said:
    Coming soon: The completely portless MacBook Pro. 
    MacBook battery run out of charge? No problem, the Apple trade-in program will refund you 5% of your previous days MacBook. Or visit an Apple Store daily for a battery replacement for only $599.
    Ives: "The completely portless, un-chargable MacBook Pro has let us make it 1mm thinner - revolutionizing the personal computing experience..."
    Average Appleinsider commenter: "People who charge their MacBooks daily are a niche market..."

    In all seriousness, we are probably only a few years away from an all-wireless PC. Wireless charging is getting better, and most people don’t use a lot of ports anymore. Expect it to start with mobile devices, though. 
  • Reply 12 of 83
    darkpawdarkpaw Posts: 130member
    FTA: "Some we powered through the multiple USB-C ports on our MacBook Pro. which isn't an ideal solution by any means."

    Huh? Sounds like that's the best solution. Plug in the charger, and you have three separate USB-C ports with which to charge three devices: your iPad Pro, your iPhone and your battery pack (I doubt your Watch would be strictly necessary).
    randominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 83
    ajmasajmas Posts: 558member
    I imagine one of the challenges with producing a 4 port USB-C charger is what wattage do you support? For example do you go and support 65W per outlet (total of 260W total), or one 65W port with 3 10W ports? Also, doing this while ensuring it is travel friendly, with voltage switching. 

    Outside of the power issues, what percentage of the market is USB-C focused. This will be the other deciding factor on how much effort is put into this. The solution proposed by Satechi is one that shows that the era of USB-C is coming, but we aren't quite there yet.
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 83
    USB-C is a physical description of a port. What happens through that port depends on the cable manufacturer. All USB cables can have different physical functions and characteristics. -Costs and -confusion are high. Maybe that's what the -C stands for.
    baconstangburnsideroundaboutnowMplsPneo-techboogerman2000watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 83
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 458member
    The question I have regarding USB C is who signed off on this dumpster fire. Were Steve Jobs alive he would not OK the mess cables and dongles have become on Apple devices.
  • Reply 16 of 83
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,898administrator
    davgreg said:
    The question I have regarding USB C is who signed off on this dumpster fire. Were Steve Jobs alive he would not OK the mess cables and dongles have become on Apple devices.
    Steve seemed fine with ADC. That was Apple's second shot at one cable for data, power, and video. He was also fine with DB-8 serial, and ADB. All three technologies were laden with adapters and dongles.

    Let the guy rest.
    anomeAppleZulubb-15robbyxpscooter63roundaboutnowmuthuk_vanalingamneo-techbestkeptsecrettyler82
  • Reply 17 of 83
    davgreg said:
    The question I have regarding USB C is who signed off on this dumpster fire. Were Steve Jobs alive he would not OK the mess cables and dongles have become on Apple devices.
    You’re kidding right? I have two drawers full of old cables and adapters going all the way back to Apple Desktop Bus and SCSI. I have an old Ethernet transceiver. I have terminators. I have VGA cables, VGA to DVI connectors. Serial cables, parallel cables. 30 pin iPod cables. All of which Steve Jobs “signed off” on. 
    bb-15muthuk_vanalingamneo-techtyler82randominternetpersonchiaStrangeDaysfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 83
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,012member
    All smarty pents must know that best tech don't always win the adoption war. Famous tape battle of Sony's superior Beta vs JVC VHS. Now that MAC laptops and iPad moved to USB-C, next will be iPhone and the debate is pretty much over. We know there is no new physical data transfer port spec on horizon so until WIRELESS(data transfer,charging) becomes norm, accept USB-C thinderbolt 3 will be the port of choice for Computers,Tablets, Phones and rest of gadgets. .
    edited January 21
  • Reply 19 of 83
    anomeanome Posts: 1,297member

    The comments about "MacBook Pro should have moar portz!" are kind of missing the point of the article. It's not that they need dongles to plug the stuff they brought with them into their MacBook Pro, it's that they can't use USB-C only to charge their other devices yet.

    If the only devices they'd decided to charge via USB-C were the two that needed it - the MacBook Pro, and the iPad Pro - then they wouldn't have had a problem. The problem is caused by trying to use USB-C to charge everything, and not having enough USB-C ports available to charge everything at once.

    For instance, suppose you have a USB-C phone (like one of those Samsung things) and you have a USB-C charger with a USB-C cable. If you're at a publically available charging station, with USB ports provided to charge your phone on, there isn't a USB-C port there, only USB-A. So you would have to power it using the power adapter, which may not be convenient, or with a USB-A to USB-C cable. In the same situation with a MacBook Pro, the USB ports weren't going to provide enough power anyway, so you'd have to charge it from the power brick. This is the kind of situation discussed in the article.

    The lack of multiple USB-C ports on chargers and hubs is more serious a problem, and needs to be rectified going forward. As the article says, this isn't an Apple problem, it's an industry problem - everyone is pushing for USB-C, but the (for want of a better word) infrastructure isn't there yet.

    pscooter63neo-tech
  • Reply 20 of 83
    M68000 said:
    Let's just hope this USB-C connector can stand the test of time - how durable it is.  A USB-A or B connector seems to be so sturdy by comparison, maybe I am imagining it, not sure..  I am very careful when using the cables and connectors on my new MacBook Air.
    You should be able get some sturdy type-c cables even today.
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